The Doorway, The Empty Bed, And The Parents Left Behind…

The Bad News…

I was driving south on highway 163 through Balboa Park when I adjusted the radio dial to to catch the news of the day. That’s when I learned of the Columbine shootings. After a few seconds of shock, I pulled to the side of the freeway and gave in to some trembling and a few tears. Though I was in San Diego looking to buy a house, my wife and daughter were still back in Colorado. Columbine was an unincorporated area of Littleton, adjacent to where were lived in Highlands ranch. This traggedy hit home.

I soon gained control of my emotions and continued driving to my empty apartment. Despite the early hour, I crawled into my sleeping bag and took it all in, continuing to listen to the radio, and to all the media speculation as to why the shootings happened. I wasn’t interest in why.

My most immediate thought was not about the reasons why, not about the perpetrators, nor even the victims of the tragedy. The image that stood fast in my mind was that of a married couple – two silhouettes of unknown parents standing in the doorway of their child’s bedroom on the first morning after the shootings, and staring at an empty bed. And that was the tragedy to me; the doorway, the empty bed, and the parents with nobody to wake up on that first day after. It’s an image I’ve never been able to go.

Too Soon…

Since that time, other school shootings notwithstanding, I have been proximate to the deaths of too many children, some by accident and some by disease. When I become aware of these losses, that’s where my head goes first; to the doorway, the empty bed, and to the parents standing emotionally paralyzed with nobody to wake up and get ready for school on that first day without.

Two months ago, after learning that a friend’s adolescent daughter passed unexpectedly, my head went there again. My heart ached at the thought of my friend and her husband standing in that doorway, looking at an empty bed, with nobody to wake up and get ready for school on their first morning without Clara.



I checked out that day. I cancelled my sessions, took my dog to a nature trail and spent the day immersed in heavy thought. Trying to be grateful for all I have and all I am, I took inventory of my life but came up short. For the next several weeks I tried to reconcile this untimely loss. Despite the strength her mother has showed in the wake of this tragedy, I just can’t do it – I can’t get good with the loss of this child.


Several weeks later I would learn of another young girl stricken with cancer who may not see 2017. Again, I went to the doorway, to the empty bedroom, and the parents who will be left behind with nobody to wake up the next day and get ready for school.

As I think of these young people, and of the parents they leave behind, regardless of what circumstances lead to their passing, I will always think first of the parents in the doorway, and of the empty bed.

Though the bed can be removed and the room can be reassigned, the doorway – that portal of access into a child’s life, always remains. I can’t imagine the strength that is required to pass through that doorway on a regular basis. I can though, love and appreciate all the parents who face this, and I bow down to them with enormous respect and a great deal of love. Be well… rc

Beyond the doorway there is an empty bed
Two shadows stand and nothing is said

This moment is a vacuum as love can’t breathe
It falls to the floor and two parents grieve

Tears form but aren’t able to flow
Dreams fall never to grow

A blanket of sadness covers the two
Souls filled with lead not believing it’s true

Though the sun may shine, and the world may turn
And as the lives of others may flicker and churn

The parents in the doorway are unable to feel
Unable to cry, not ready to heal

The empty bed may stay or may go
It might be a shrine or may be let go

But the doorway is there, and will always remain
An ongoing reminder, and a portal to pain
If you are not already a subscriber, please scroll up and do so.  Tell your friends about me — about what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head.. Oh, and there’s this from Hymns from Nineveh…

30 responses

    • Touching article Roy. Thanks for being vulnerable and open and sharing from your heart. I’ve seen much tragedy in my life, but you’re right, there’s nothing harder than seeing the life of a young child being taken – by another, by cancer, accident, whatever. As a believer in Christ the only hope we have for them is knowing this wasn’t their home, nor is it ours. We are simply passing through. So the good news is, as the famous author C.S. Lewis once wrote in his book The Last Battle,

      “And for us this the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”
      ― C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle

      Our time spent on this earth is like the eraser on a pencil – but our life in eternity is the pencil itself. We have so much to look forward to after this life, so much! It’s having the right perspective where we are able to see that and not give up hope. Any believer in Christ who has lost a child knows they will see them again. It might not take the pain way from the loss here on earth, but it gives them hope for the reunion they will have one day with them in heaven.

      Have a blessed day,

  1. The only thing that remains is to hold the memory of those departed in our hearts and, no matter how difficult it gets, live our lives to the fullest in their honor.
    Beautiful post. Thank you.

  2. Amazing poignant imagery, Roy! There was a family that ours was very close to when I was very young. Their 11 year old daughter, Julie, died during a heart operation for what is now a routine procedure. I continually recall the difficult moments when I learned of that tragedy. I have found the words of Wordsworth’s poem comforting. “What though the radiance which was once so bright
    Be now for ever taken from my sight,
    Though nothing can bring back the hour
    Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
    We will grieve not, rather find
    Strength in what remains behind;

  3. They say that bringing a child into the world is one of the most physically draining things a parent will experience. Then, therefore, losing a child must be the most emotionally draining. Lovely poem. Sorry again for your loss(es).

  4. Yes, I think that’s what any parent things first – feeling for the parents and having an inkling of the deep chasm of pain that will surround them the rest of their lives. Then, I think of the child and how they lost out on so much in this beautiful, flawed world. During times in my life (my 30’s in particular) when I was involved in more risky sports and travel, I always held back a bit knowing I may be ok with death on a mountainside, but my dear parents would not.

  5. In 2009 a drunk driver was driving on the wrong side of the road, crashed into a car full of teens, and killed four of them. Only the 16-year old driver of the car full of friends survived. The first responders were their friends in the second car– those were the kids who tried to do CPR and talked to the 911 dispatchers. The teens were all the same age as my son, and one of them had been in my son’s class the year I volunteered at his elementary school.
    The image that stuck with me was this: All the parents of the kids in both cars had been called to the fire station closest to the crash site. Parents of the kids in the second car, that wasn’t hit, came to claim their children, but soon only the parents of the deceased children were left, waiting. One of the parents, beginning to sense the tragedy, started screaming at the police officers, “Where is my son?”
    That’s the one I can’t let go. Called out of bed in at 1am, show up at the fire station, you’ve been told there was a crash, and you are watching other parents walk out with their children… but yours isn’t there.
    This summer I saw one of the moms, the mom of son’s classmate, at a wedding. She approached me and wanted to ask me how my son is doing in college. It broke my heart to tell her. By the end of this conversation we were both sobbing.

    • Wow. I know these kinds of things touch us all. Sharing them makes it that much more real — that we are so lucky if we wake up, luckier still if our children wake up. Thank you for sharing that, Lisa. This one will stick with me.

  6. Was just talking to Corey about those who have passed,and last week another dear team mate of his is gone. We pray for the parents and family. Beautiful words my brother. Your timing of this is helps us heal.

    • Thanks, Brother. I had seen Corey post something about that. I chose not to comment, but my thoughts were there. And of course, Eric and your mom, were in my thoughts as when I wrote this as well.!

  7. Such a poignant post Roy!!! Yes, it all is also true & putting words on paper is always difficult for me with posts & thoughts as these. I have lost many – too many some younger, some older… I always try to remember as hard as it is, that they would not want us to stop living. HARD to do but we have to honor them by living. Thank you!

    AND this poem I read at my mom’s memorial:

    That’s about it for now. I’m off to dance in the clouds,
    sing at the end of the rainbow and travel at the speed of thought. When you least expect it, I’ll pay you a visit.

    Please do not stand at my grave and weep. I am not there, I do not sleep. I am a thousand winds that blow. I am the diamond glints on snow. I am the sunlight on ripened grain. I am the gentle autumn’s rain.

    When you awaken in the morning’s hush, I am the swift uplifting rush of quiet birds in circled flight. I am the soft stars that shine at night. Please do not stand at my grave and cry. I am not there, I did not die.

    Author Unknown.

  8. Pingback: Life, At Face Value.. | Contemplative Fitness

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